For the past couple of weeks in particular I’ve been thinking about the word ‘freedom’. Among those thoughts was that that idea has been on coins and/or US currency for a long time. The concept appears depicted as Liberty, a woman, sometimes thought of as Lady Liberty. I guess many people associate that phrase with the Statue of Liberty but she was on coins used in this country well before the Statue of Liberty was installed in New York City’s harbor.
I found a tiny bit of information on the Roman goddess, Libertas, the source for that idea. Since she’s part of the Roman pantheon of gods and goddesses I wondered what stories there were about her. From information available on the internet, it seems that though her name, Libertas or Liberty, survives, there aren’t any surviving stories about her, at least not by that name. I saw a reference to the idea that that name is an epithet of the goddess Artemis, goddess of the hunt.
I wondered why her name survives but no stories specific to her that I could find.
I also wondered, a bit, with some amusement, that a goddess associated with another time and place was a part of our currency off and on over many years.
Since Roman gods and goddesses were often borrowed from the Greek pantheon of gods and goddesses, I searched and discovered that in ancient Greece, she was known as Eleutheria. That name means freedom. Still no stories about her, though. I wondered about the etymology of her name and found a little bit:
“Eleutheria seems to come from arriving (eleu) to where one loves (eran). This way eleutheria radically means the fulfillment of one’s love as an end of a trip.”
and the website where I found this information went on to say:
“There is included here also the meaning of growing and rising, advancing to a higher state of being.”
And that makes me even more curious about freedom, liberty, and the way our language has retained this concept, has even preserved it at times in our coins and more generally as a concept we, as Americans, talk about. I wonder why no stories survived about Libertas/Eleutheria. I can’t help wondering if conceptually that idea meant something other than what we’ve come to think of it as meaning. It sounds more like an inner exploration and understanding than something one goes to war over.